THE WARM HEART OF RIBOLA ART ROUTE
Long after the excitement of the holiday is over and your fabulous photos are simply screensavers on your laptop, it is the people you have met along the way which stay with you in your soul.
On the Ribola Art Route, your journey begins with a lanky, handsome young man, Gift Mkhari who greets you like an old friend with the biggest smile you have ever seen. This talented musician and Community Host is passionate about the people and places in the villages of Mbokota and Tshivuyuni which are at the heart of Ribola. From the moment that you meet him at the distinctive green-walled Gwagwa 'Supermarket', he becomes a friend, someone who not only helps you navigate the sometimes confusing village roads and the conversations in Tshivenda and Xitsonga, but also shares the cultural insights of this community of talented artists, craftspeople, sculptors and pot-makers.
Travelling along dusty roads, the excitement builds as you drive in the shadow of the Ribola Mountain where, the story goes, part of the mountain collapsed killing many villagers in Chavani after people went up without permission of the ancestors and took away some artefacts they found lying there. The Ribola Mountain is believed to be guarded by a giant snake and is an appropriate metaphor for the rich, cultural melting pot of Venda and Tsonga myths and legends integral to the work of the Ribola artists.
At Twananani Textiles, when you sit knee-to-knee around the heated wax for the Batik cloth-making with Mma Florence or Mma Evelien, you make a connection way past simply popping in and buying a cloth but it is the big personalities of Amu and Molly which make the experience more than just a creative and colourful exercise. As you laugh and chat, you begin to get a sense of their lives, their passion and their pride. Community means everything to this co-operative of 20-years and this reflects life in the village where a passing neighbour balancing groceries on her head calls a greeting from the road and the laughing kids at the creche sit around an oversized pot sharing a meal together.
An old woman cries out to the sky, bewailing not only at the masked child who must be forced to wash his hands, but also at the powers-that-be who leave rural homesteads without water for months on end.